The rationale of food packaging is to save more resources than it uses. Its principal function is to ensure the safety of the food content and to prevent food waste, recognized as a major resource loss in Europe and worldwide.
A beverage carton's contribution to resource efficiency is intrinsically linked to its contents. Its value relates
inextricably to the food it safely preserves and the food loss it prevents. Public policies developed in the name of resource efficiency should reflect this. Measures seeking simply to reduce packaging weight may be counterproductive. More appropriate are policies which, for example, reward responsibly sourced materials and promote innovative recycling technologies able to fully recapture the value of used packaging materials.
ACE members seek to improve the resource efficiency of cartons through responsible sourcing, supporting carton recycling and their active involvement on reducing the environmental footprint of beverage cartons. On average the beverage carton exists of 75% wood fibre, a natural, renewable resource. Natural resources such as wood will remain renewable if they are responsibly managed. Recycling of beverage cartons in Europe (EU-27, Norway and Switzerland) has grown steadily over the last fifteen years, with around 365,000 tonnes recycled in 2011. This represents a rate of 37% of all cartons sold in Europe being recycled. Numerous Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) have been undertaken by the industry and leading environmental research institutes to assess the carbon footprint of beverage cartons. These complex and competent studies allow the industry to take further steps in reducing the carbon footprint of beverage cartons. Besides their work on carbon footprint, ACE members have also started their work on assessing the water footprint .
The beverage carton industry now produces 40% more cartons with the same amount of wood fibres as 20 years ago. Confronted with the need to see a radical improvement in how we use our resources, the industry accepts the need for a step change in how resources are being managed in the future. The industry envisages innovation in material and technology, products and growth with reduced resource use, and environmental footprint.
Read more about the conference 'Resources Unlimited? – Moving to a resource-efficient economy', jointly organised by WWF, ACE, the European Commission, and the OECD in October 2011.